Natalia

ABT at Kennedy Center, January 2011

37 posts in this topic

I'm beginning this topic for reviews and discussions on actual performances. Did anyone else go to the Mixed Bill that ended last night? Below is my review of the 2nd night -- with a hint about a very special performer in tonight's BRIGHT STREAM opener.

* * *

American Ballet Theater @ Kennedy Center, Wash, DC

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mixed Bill of Modern 'Classics' by Balanchine,Tudor and Robbins

I went to last night's performance (2nd night of the mixed bill). It was fantastic and incredibly well attended, with only a smattering of empty seats in the middle of the 2nd Tier. Orchestra and Box levels seemed full.

Theme & Variations - I expected the technical greatness and musicality of Hernan Cornejo but wasn't holding out much hope for Sarah Lane. (I had originally bought the ticket to see Michelle Wiles (w/ Stearns) as was none-too-thrilled at the switcheroo a couple of weeks ago.) I was delightfully surprised by the petite beauty, sparkle and elan of Sarah Lane. Other than some not-quite-finished double pirouettes in her last solo before the pdd, she was brilliant. The four demi-solo ladies were great, with extra kudos for Misty Copeland. Only the corps men sounded a discordant note, not very uniform in their leaps, each gent doing his own thing but, hey, they had to wait backstage forever before their big moment in the finale.

Lilac Garden - Again, a switcheroo kept me from seeing a favorite in a leading role but I ended up not in the least disappointed. Melanie Hamrick danced Caroline in place of the originally-announced Stella Abrera. Hamrick is a true beauty, becoming a very fine dancing actress. But it was the 'Other Lady' of the story, Veronika Part, who sizzled. The male leads were fine, if not extraordinary. My biggest complaints here go to the dark set - nothing resembling a garden could be seen from 2nd Tier -- and the El-Cheapo-looking new versions of the original 1940s costumes (which, thank goodness, can still be admired at New York Theater Ballet).

Duo Concertant - Ricetto and, especially, Hallberg were wonderful in only the 2nd ABT performance of the work. Hallberg, in particular, was very moving. He has truly become one of the great male dance artists of our time. The spotlighted finale of this work never fails to strike a romantic chord in my heart.

Fancy Free - This is always a jazzy audience pleaser. Marcello Gomes stole the show, IMO, as the 3rd (rhumba solo) sailor, although the other two were mighty fine (as per the playbill, Salstein and Radetsky, but Sailor #2 didn't at all resemble Radetsky; I am guessing Lopez). Kristi Boone sparkled as the lady with the red purse. Julie Kent went through the motions as the lady in purple.

In the 'Hint-Hint' Department: The playbill gives the full cast for all of the other nights in ABT's run, including the weekend's Bright Stream performances. Martine Van Hamel will dance/act the meaty role of the 'Old Lady Dacha Dweller' on Friday and Saturday nights. Be there or be square!

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for the write-up, Natalia. This program looked very interesting to me, casting issues aside, I'd actually love to see it here in NYC.

But as we won't, hearing reports such as yours are the next best thing!

London will also see some similar programs in a few weeks so I hope to hear reports from there too.

Also am waiting for reports on this weekends Bright Stream performances in DC. At least that one WILL be shown in NYC and I'm looking forward to some of the casting that's been announced for us a few months off.

Share this post


Link to post

I was there last night (Thursday).

T & V was led by Michele Wiles and Cory Stearns. I'd only seen Stearns once before (in Allegro Brilliante) and was not very impressed, but I thought he was very good in T & V. He didn't have quite the same force of personality that others have had in the role, but I'm sure that will come. Wiles, on the other hand ... T & V is wicked hard, and Wiles sure makes it look easy. But I thought she looked very stiff in the arms and lower back, and whenever I see her dance I always wonder ... does she actually think about the music? Not just listen to it, but think about it? About how it relates to the steps? And does anyone know how long she's had black hair? It's very harsh and makes her look washed out.

Lilac Garden - I absolutely agree with Natalia, the new costumes look very, very cheap. Kent was wonderful, as expected, as Caroline, but for me Kristi Boone as the Lady with the Feather almost stole the show.

Duo Concertant with David Hallberg & Maria Ricetto was the highlight of the evening for me. Such clean, unaffected dancing! Really marvelous.

Fancy Free -- it was announced (to groans from the audience) that Ethan Stiefel and Herman Cornejo were injured. They were replaced by Sasha Radetsky and Craig Salstein. Radetsky (2nd solo) really sells the role. Carreño doesn't have quite the same insouciance that I remember Damian Woetzel having the in the same rumba solo. Salstein was fine, but totally overshadowed by the other two.

Looking forward to Bright Stream this weekend!!

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, cinnamonswirl. That may explain why Radetsky was suddenly pulled from the Wednesday performance...to move him to Thursday, in place of Steifel. As Cornejo is now injured, I wonder if he will be replaced in the Saturday matinee and Sunday Bright Streams?

Speaking of Bright Stream, I was just reviewing my DVD of the Kultura telecast of the world premiere by the Bolshoi (ca 2006). Martine Van Hamel's role tonight -- the Lady Dacha Dweller -- is a pivotal, meaty one. Not just a little cameo. The Lady Dacha Dweller is a 'woman of a certain age' who dreams of being a ballerina despite her, ahum, girth and years. She considers herself very glamorous and dainty! In Act II, she even has a solo on pointe, in the manner of Kitri, red silk ruffles and all. This should be especially delicious for those of us long-time ABT fans "of a certain age" who fondly remember Van Hamel as Kitri many a moon ago.

Of course, we are all looking forward to seeing David Hallberg tonight as 'La Sylphide' in Act II of Bright Stream.

Share this post


Link to post

Wiles has black hair now? Yikes. Blonde looked so good with her complexion. She reminds me of a "Hitchcock Blonde."

Share this post


Link to post

Also am waiting for reports on this weekends Bright Stream performances in DC. At least that one WILL be shown in NYC and I'm looking forward to some of the casting that's been announced for us a few months off.

I'm attending the Saturday evening performance of Bright Stream with Herrera, Gomes, Murphy, Hallberg :flowers: Of course I'd be glad to report back to the group.

Looking forward to some time at the National Gallery, then a visit to the Citronelle lounge for a cocktail, and dinner at Citronelle, to lead up to the Kennedy Center performance. It'll be my first visit to the performance venue.

Share this post


Link to post

T & V is wicked hard, and Wiles sure makes it look easy. But I thought she looked very stiff in the arms and lower back, and whenever I see her dance I always wonder ... does she actually think about the music? Not just listen to it, but think about it? About how it relates to the steps? And does anyone know how long she's had black hair? It's very harsh and makes her look washed out.

Must be fairly recent, maybe she got tired of everyone talking about how she and Hallberg wash each other out with their blondness? And I agree about her dancing.

Interested to hear about the Bright Stream from everyone...got a long wait before I get to see it again for myself.

Share this post


Link to post

T & V was led by Michele Wiles and Cory Stearns. .....

Wiles, on the other hand ... T & V is wicked hard, and Wiles sure makes it look easy. But I thought she looked very stiff in the arms and lower back, and whenever I see her dance I always wonder ... does she actually think about the music? Not just listen to it, but think about it? About how it relates to the steps?

Sigh. This really sums up the basic problem I have with Wiles. She's a really well schooled dancer with a fine technique. But she always seems so stiff to me. And all I get from her is that she is concentrating on the steps she is executing. No sense of the music, no sense of listening. No expression. Just steps. She seems to have almost no charisma or magnetism on stage at all. Almost like a blank wall.....

Share this post


Link to post

Looking forward to some time at the National Gallery, then a visit to the Citronelle lounge for a cocktail, and dinner at Citronelle, to lead up to the Kennedy Center performance. It'll be my first visit to the performance venue.

Let us also know how Citronelle is. My husband and I are thinking of going there next time we are in D.C.

Share this post


Link to post

Wiles has black hair now? Yikes. Blonde looked so good with her complexion. She reminds me of a "Hitchcock Blonde."

Both Natalia Osipova and Uliana Lopatkina are natural blondes (or have lightish hair) but dye it black. I think the idea is that blondes are not natural dramatic tragediennes or something. Osipova idolizes Margot Fonteyn according to the profile I read and dyed her hair to resemble her idol. I was also told that in the old days if a ballerina had bright red hair and danced in the corps, the dancer would be encouraged to dye her hair not to stand out. Now I see lots of redheads in the corps and there is Kondaurova!

Anyway, I suspect Wiles is trying something to shed herself of her "all-American" lack of mystique. It goes deeper than hair color. The odd thing is that Wiles often shines in secondary roles and in offbeat repertory. Her intensity as Hagar in "Pillar of Fire" surprised me. She can shine as Gamzatti. Her Balanchine has been praised including her "Ballo della Regina". But her Odette/Odile etc. lack quite a bit. The Myrtha in "Giselle" is also jerky and stiff-looking. I haven't seen her Kitri. Interestingly, Wiles did shine in Ashton's "Sylvia". :dunno:

But I think she is trying to avoid the spunky cheerleader type curse. Also there is this phenomenon of really talented soloists (I saw Wiles seem to steal the show from the prima ballerina many times in soloist roles) who get promoted to principal and whatever spark they had as a soloist disappears when they get principal status. Kathryn Morgan at NYCB might have this happen to her. I am sure early on Yvonne Borree was adorable in little solos and bits at NYCB but as a principal she was dull and uneven. Also principals are expected to cover a wide range of roles and not every ballerina can carry an evening or anchor a multi-act classical story ballet.

Share this post


Link to post
As Cornejo is now injured, I wonder if he will be replaced in the Saturday matinee and Sunday Bright Streams?

Cornejo danced in the dress rehearsal this afternoon. And he didn't mark it either. :)

Share this post


Link to post

Just came back from Kennedy Center - ABT's premier of Bright Stream. Tonight, everyone on stage dazzled and sparkled brilliantly. They were all lively. To praise each member duly is far beyond my ability. I just want to say I think it's the success or, even, victory of ABT as a whole - dancing, choreography, staging, costumes altogether (Well, please remember that my ballet experience with ABT falls short of one full year, so, it's a truly personal expression. Just take it that tonight was ABT's one of the best performances since last May). Anyway, tonight I first felt and learned how thrilling can be a ballet performance when every dancer, not lead roles only, shines.

Share this post


Link to post

I hope everyone who can get to see "Bright Stream" does. GO!!! It was a big hit with the audience -- lots of laughs all the way through - and I felt as kyeong did, that every dancer shone. It's the best thing I've seen ABT do in years, and shows what those dancers can do with the right material.

Share this post


Link to post

American Ballet Theater @ Kennedy Center, Wash, DC

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Bright Stream (Ratmansky/Shostakovich) - Company Premiere

Bright Stream was SPECTACULAR, mainly due to the dancing...not for the production values. Hallberg was a hoot as the Male Ballet Dancer ('La Sylphide' in A2)! Van Hamel and Barbee were a riot as the middle-aged Dacha Dwellers. Gillian Murphy delectable as the Ballerina...but without the leaping fire-power of Alexandrova or Osipova at the Bolshoi, who have set a tough standard. Herrera and Gomes were wonderful as the leading couple of young village leaders who invite the small troupe of traveling artists to the harvest festival (and thus spark the plot). Misty Copeland was most memorable as a prize-winning Milkmaid, complete with 'cow' to milk - a laugh-inducing scene straight from Ashton's Facade (and perhaps a tip-off to the Lopukhov family, the English ballerina Lydia being Ashton's first Milkmaid in Facade; her brother Fyodor created the original Bright Stream ballet in 1935). Special kudos to Sasha Radetsky as the Accordeon player AND -- best of all, IMO -- Sarah Lane as the adorable little schoolgirl who Radetsky woos. Oh, let's not forget the 'dancing dog'! My only quibble with the dancing is that this version has about two-thirds of the corps de ballet of the Bolshoi version...but one can really tell if one has seen the Bolshoi edition.

BIGGEST BOO: The ultra-drab set and costumes are nothing like the colorful and 'luxe' Bolshoi version that toured NYC and London. ABT got the 'beige prairie' edition from Riga, Latvia...although I could swear that the prairie with the lone windmill came from some high-school production of 'Oklahoma!' No airplane...no chugging train...no rows of tall wheat...no romantic statues and moonlit stream in A2...no enormous Soviet statues and twinkling bulbs at the end. The gigantic vegetables in the final Harvest Festival are gone, so Ratmansky has created a three-tiered "human tractor" that suspiciously looks like Alain's carriage in Ashton's Fille.

That said, I'd go again -- am going again tonight -- for the dancing. I will remember and imagine the brilliance of the Bolshoi sets and costumes yet again. Maybe it's not too late for ABT to dump the Riga production (designed by Ilya Utkin, responsible for the minimalist/ugly sets of Ratmansky's Cinderella ) and order the Bolshoi sets and costumes (designed by realist-romantic Boris Messerer) in time for the Met run?

- Natalia Nabatova

Washington, DC

Share this post


Link to post

I was at ABT's Thursday evening mixed rep performance. 'Theme & Variations' didn't give me the goosebumps that it has in the past but I don't fault the dancers for that. I think I was sitting too close to the stage to get the real effect of the complete sweep and movement of the piece. I always knew that this ballet was Balanchine's mini tribute to the glory of old Czarist Russian Ballet, but I learned something new about it also that evening. I attended a talk given by Kevin McKenzie & Alexei Ratmansky and one of them said (I think it was Kevin) that it was akin to a mini Sleeping Beauty when Mr. Balanchine created it for ABT in the late forties. I've seen this ballet probably close to dozen times but after hearing that statement, I was finally able to really see SB in so much of it. DUH! Talking about missing the obvious! Ah well, this is why I love to go to those seminars.

"Lilac Garden" is always beautifully done by this, it's home company, but Julie Kent seems to gain more depth in her roles each time I see her. My husband & I feel like we have watched her grow up on stage and it's been a lovely experience. A small minus - I know the lighting is always dark and moonlit but it seemed particularly dark this time for some reason.

"Duo Concertant" has never been a top favorite of mine even when NYCB does it but it was a treat to watch David Hallberg & Maria Riccetto grace this piece. I look forward to watching Mr. Hallberg progress as he is already such a fine dancer in the Eric Bruhn tradition. God Bless South Dakota for sharing one of its' sons with the art form :).

I heard the soft moans when it was announced that Mr. Stiefel & Mr. Cornejo were out for "Fancy Free". Still, Jose Manuel Careno was there to provide his perfect pirouettes and Craig Salstein & Sascha Radetsky filled in quite admirably. Maria Riccetto & Isabella Boylston were appropriately sassy & spirited as the girls the fellows try to impress and Karen Uphoff was in full glamourous allure as the one they chase off after to bring down the curtain. All in all a good, not great, evening of ballet.

Right now I don't have time to post my full impressions on "The Bright Stream", but sufficient to say I loved Victor Barbee's Buster Keatonesque perfection, Gillian Murphy's brilliance, David Hallberg's brilliance, and Mr. Ratmansky's dance creation. Don't miss this one with either cast.

Share this post


Link to post
BIGGEST BOO: The ultra-drab set and costumes are nothing like the colorful and 'luxe' Bolshoi version that toured NYC and London.

But how about the hammer and sickle on that red banner with harvest motifs above the stage? :smilie_mondieu: Given that D.C.'s a political town, I had to laugh.

Share this post


Link to post

Quick notes after last night's (Saturday, Jan. 22, 7:30pm) Bright Stream, with the same cast as Friday night's opener.

* Gillian Murphy cranked up the fire-power of her jetes -- now higher and closer to the 180-degree split of Alexandrova/Bolshoi, especially in the brilliant A1 solo to pounding drums (in the Caucasus style). As on Friday, her A2 'male solo' (echoing the steps of David Hallberg in A1) was brilliant. Brava!

* David Hallberg comes close to stealing the show in A2, with his Drag Sylphide. What makes him so hilarious, even better than the Bolshoi guys I've seen (such as Filin and Tsiskaridze) is that Hallberg is so tall and big boned. When he jumps up onto the bench, then back down to the stage, it's a thunderous boom. His deadpan face is a gem; his comic timing perfect. I wish that there were an 'Oscar' of some sort for most brilliant ballet performance. This is it.

* As mentioned earlier, the plain design of this production leaves me cold on many fronts. Case in point: the A2 dress of the Lady Dacha Dweller (Van Hamel) is no longer the obvious hearkening to DonQ-Kitri. Here, the Lady wears only a plain 1930s red dress with tiny dark ruffle at the hem, and white pearls, during the A2 'moonlight courtship' scene. In the Bolshoi version, she wears a 3-tiered flouncy dress similar to Kitri-A1 in Don Q. Also, ABT's Lady Dacha Dweller does not perform as long on pointe as in the Bolshoi version. The quick-stabbing taquette steps, a-la-Kitri or Paquita, are now gone. In the Bolshoi, this character actually goes completely across the stage (gingerly) on pointe. Instead, ABT's Lady just elevates herself to pointe a couple of times. Van Hamel still did a great job with characterization but the Spanish flavor and 'pointe work' were watered down.

* The set is still ugly-drab but this time I was sitting in the center, so was able to spot what, I think, is supposed to be a train...a couple of black panels with white smoke, coming in from the rear, audience-left side of the stage. Audience sitting to the far left miss this.

I'd love to read about the 2nd cast, Sat/Sun matinees (Reyes as Zina, Cornejo as Petr, Boylston as the ballerina and Simkin as the danceur/Sylphide...and Susan Jones as the Lady Dacha Dweller).

Share this post


Link to post

Natalia, I loved the reports. I can't wait to see Bright Stream in NY in the spring. You've whetted my appetite.

It's set to open with the four principals that opened it in DC. But there is also a "petite" cast similar to the alternate cast in DC but with Osipova as the ballerina (rather than Boylston) that looks very interesting. I hope to get to both!

Share this post


Link to post

I was at the Saturday evening performance of "The Bright Stream". I liked the ballet a lot, although I thought Hallberg's depiction of "La Sylphide", even though excellent, lacked subtle nuances and went for more slapstick-type physical and facial expression humor. That could have been what Ratmansky contemplated for the Ballet Dancer role, but I don't know whether that is the case one way or another. That being said, Hallberg and Murphy were both again excellent in their roles. More on that in a separate post.

Zina -- Herrera

Pyotr, Zina's husband -- Gomes

Ballerina -- Murphy

Ballet Dancer -- Hallberg :flowers:

Accordion Player -- Radetsky

Old Dacha Dweller -- V Barbee

Dacha Dweller -- M van Hamel

Gavrilych -- R Zhurbin

Galya-- S Lane

Milkmaid -- M Copeland

Tractor Driver -- J Matthews

Highlanders -- A Hammoudi and others, including B Hoven

Fieldworkesr from Kuban -- A Scott and others

Zina's friends -- N Curry, L Underwood and others

Waltz -- various female corps members

Old Men -- certain male corps members

Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky

Staged by Tatiana Ramansky

Libretto by Adrian Piotrovsky and Fyodor Lopukhov

Music by Dmitri Shostakovich ("The Bright Stream, Op. 39")

Scenery by Ilya Utkin

Costumes by Elena Markovskaya

Lighting by Brad Fields

The Kennedy Center venue is beautiful, including when the off-white outside of this impressive-looking building is lit by lights in an already dark evening. I sat in the middle-right side of the front row of the orchestra section. The view was excellent.

As Zina, Herrera danced the best I have seen her, without some of the upper body unexpressivness and upper body stiffness that I sometimes find in her work. Zina's husband in the performance, Gomes, was a good character fit for him as well. A less serious delivery, but appropriate portrayal of that character. Radetsky, Zhurbin and Lane were effective as well. Zhurbin is continuing to get roles that involve characters much more mature than Zhurbin's own age reflects. He continues to do a very good job with them, although some of the roles he has occupied (eg Lord Montague, Lord Capulet) are non-dancing.

This is a ballet with a lot of activity in most scenes. It almost takes a second viewing of the same cast to appreciate many things. I feel like my understanding of the ballet after this first viewing only scratched the surface.

I liked the simplicity of the scenery. The costumes were nice and crisp-looking, without being unduly embellished. The costumes that could have been better were Murphy's and Hallberg's "initial" costumes. Murphy had on a navy and white French-looking knit hat. Hallberg's costume, with a navy beret-type hat, and navy ensemble, reminded me a bit of his costume as the fiance in Ratmansky-choreographed On The Dneiper. The duo's initial costumes looked kind of French-styled. The scenery, costumes and the dancers created a definite sense of time and place.

The ballet choreography was witty and animated. I liked it, and I thought the four ABT principals were all effective in their respective roles. In a comedy-plot-inspired ballet, it can sometimes be a fine line between a performance that just straddles the line, but falls on the right side of it, which I thought this performance was, and a performance that is "too" over-the-top that it is almost farce-like.

I particularly liked the scenes with Hallberg posing as a ballerina and the scene, towards the end of the performance, where Herrera and Murphy are dressed in identical off-white, flowy dresses with tank-type tops. Each has a grey/black mask covering her eyes. They dance similar steps. This is the scene where Zina's past of having been a ballerina is revealed to most of the remainder of the cast. Having two principal ballerinas dance comparable steps at the same time is a nice part of the choreography.

Share this post


Link to post

Delighted to read these reviews.

Ambonnay: you mentioned the view from the middle-right side of the front row was excellent--can you see the dancers' feet properly from the front row?

Share this post


Link to post

Ambonnay: you mentioned the view from the middle-right side of the front row was excellent--can you see the dancers' feet properly from the front row?

Drew -- I was seated in Row G, which ended up being the first row because the orchestra is between the stage and my row. I was able to see the feet, but note that was from Row G. I didn't even feel like I had to turn my head particularly high to see. I also couldn't tell G was the first row from the "generic" seating chart for the venue I was shown on the Kennedy Center website. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised, as I like to be close to the dancers.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for all the reviews, it sounds like ABT has a hit on their hands and I'm so glad to hear that. I loved Bright Stream when the Bolshoi did it at the Met a few years ago but was a little worried that ABT might take too broad an approach - as Ambonnay said - there's a fine line between comedy and farce and sometimes I feel that ABT comes down on the wrong side of that line so I'm glad that isn't the case here!

Looking forward to their NYC performances this spring.

Share this post


Link to post

Raving reviews of Bright Stream from both Washington Post and NY Times.

I can't wait for the Met season, or should I just take the next Metroliner to DC?

In many past productions Ballet Theater has seemed not a true company but a backing group for guest stars. But in Mr. Ratmansky’s recent production of “The Nutcracker,” it looked like not just a company but also a family: unified in performing and acting style, happily purposeful, imaginatively engaged, full of strikingly individual performances that were harmonious parts of a vivid whole.

Now in “The Bright Stream” — .... — the same family feeling blooms. Part of the fun is to see how sweetly the featured stars interact with everyone else. Ballet Theater is becoming, throughout its ranks, a company of actor-dancers, as it has seldom been in my time.

It becomes more apparent, at least to me, that Ratmansky will become heir apparent to ABT's artistic directorship. I hope when Kevin decides it's time to step down, the job will be given to Ratmansky and he'll accept the offer.

Share this post


Link to post

Natalia, I loved the reports. I can't wait to see Bright Stream in NY in the spring. You've whetted my appetite.

It's set to open with the four principals that opened it in DC. But there is also a "petite" cast similar to the alternate cast in DC but with Osipova as the ballerina (rather than Boylston) that looks very interesting. I hope to get to both!

You're most welcome, Richard! I did not realize that Osipova would be in dancing in this in NY. That will be extra special.

Kfw, that red strip of cloth above the proscnium is probably the brightest, most colorful bit of design in the who work. At a 2nd viewing the designs are duller than ever. If it weren't for the dancers and choreography, I'd call this ballet "The Bland Stream."

Share this post


Link to post
Kfw, that red strip of cloth above the proscnium is probably the brightest, most colorful bit of design in the who work. At a 2nd viewing the designs are duller than ever. If it weren't for the dancers and choreography, I'd call this ballet "The Bland Stream."

I can understand your reaction since you've seen the Bolshoi version in the theater. I've only seen their televised performance, and I was very pleased by what I saw at the Kennedy Center. The simple white tops and headscarves on the women villagers, for example - uniform and lovely.

Share this post


Link to post